"Farewell, Beresina - Ade, Beresina." Mitteilunsblatt,
15 August 1991, 1.
Translation from German to English by
Alma M. Herman, Fargo, North Dakota
Some villages managed to celebrate a considerable number of reunions.
The people of Beresina, although theirs had been a large colony,
were late in being re-assembled and held only their fourth reunion
this year in the illustrious town of Marbach. It was hosted by
Helmut Schneider in the name of the Preparatory Circle. Perhaps
it was because the Beresina village residents were so widely scattered
all over the world. It is remarkable that in the invitation circle
the last Beresiners could find each other through singular appearance
and intuition based on questions asked of the grandchildren that
could be answered by particular Bessarabians. This included the
young and the grownups of Resettlement times. The question of
“Where to?” by our group of people drives this generation,
after all the years of fortunate membership in our society, to
ask the question “Where from?” to which they could
not get complete answers in the troubled times of their youth.
Beresina was founded 175 years ago. Many visitors came to the
rally from the north and south and now at last also from the east.
Some, as earlier, came from overseas. They met in memory of our
dead to place wreathes in the Marbach cemetery; to the festival
worship service that Professor Erwin Dobler of Beresina conducted
in one of the Marbuch churches. Then they were reunited with friends
and relatives at a program in the town hall where Herbert Wegenast
greeted the festival assembly in the name of the Preparations
Committee together with a representative of the civic community
of Marbuch and Mr. Edwin Kelm of the Association of Bessarabian
Germans as chairman.
The festival speaker was Dr. Hugo Schneider of Beresina, for
the third time. After he gave an account of the history of the
colony, then of the dissolution of the village in 1940, he placed
a logical accent on the future. The village is dissolved; the
community is scattered. The younger generation of Beresiners (die
buba ub mäla) boys and girls of that time, as Dr. Schneider
said, have advanced in years. And with the last generation those
in Beresina who at Christmas still “ghurgelt” with
nuts and, prior to the plastic age, played “Knochantscha”
along with the history of Bessarabia will fade into memory. Dr.
Schneider should be squarely faced, but he could not stay on general
subject matter because he had much concrete information to impart:
“According to the will of the festival authorities, today’s
meeting will be the last of its kind. The village community says
it final farewell, definitely.”
For many, that is a momentous announcement. They experienced
the last Reunion festival without suspecting anything. Yet for
some countrymen of the previous DDR the political circumstances
were the reason they had to remain the first time. The speaker
himself admitted that at the thought of it his heart ached –
“weh ums herz.” Contrary to this personal sentiment,
the following facts must be faced. Time has healed wounds. Entrance
to the life of the new old homeland has long since been accomplished
not only by the grandchildren. Personally it became constantly
clearer how much Dr. Schneider treasured the memory of the Bessarabian
homeland and in the social and political developments does not
perceive the grounds for more sorrow even if he is not pleased
with everything that surrounds us. It is certain that this fourth
Reunion of Beresiners took place “under improbable and altered
conditions. There is no longer a divided Germany.” Beresina
could undeniably express that at least this one time it was celebrating
a joint “wiedersehn” (Reunion).
“We are so completely integrated in this country,”
said Dr. Schneider, “that an organized assembly would no
longer be necessary. Especially if there were not things like
motives, wishes, memories and common things that come into play
– things that do not come from intellect, but from the heart.
It is not a matter of habit but of the heart because home is not
a matter of habit.” In these words the well-known and regrettable
human connection between the long-prevailing companionship factors
and the very personal visible bond uniting people socially and
geographically that has marked us.
To these factors belong, my thinking, the younger reporter, for
instance. Also, the problem of minorities in Poland to whom Dr.
Schneider referred. The general desire of the German is not one
that I, as a Bessarabian Germany, am obliged to agree with. The
fact remains really also that Bessarabia can still chart a course
of life as people, for instance, can be suddenly surprised by
a smell that shuts out their native surroundings as Dr. Schneider
made clear with one of his poems with which he ended the speech
after a moment of silence in memory of the Bessarabian dead.
“For years I went at night by moonlight
Through the Welzheimer Woods
You know what comes over us sometimes;
One believes he hears a melody, or suddenly
He is aware of a smell in the nose
Or a taste on the tongue.
Remarkably, I smelled melons –
Like at home when one in summer opened the cellar door and I
Went down to my shack and wrote the following:
The Smell of Melons
Moist and rotten autumn leaves
Under the shoe of the wanderer.
All take leave; also those who
Would gladly still stay.
The odor of the melons in summers of yesterday.
Many summers, those on the steppe at home.
But that was long ago.
Yet this odor lit the lights of home
On an autumn evening.
The secret tie between the future and the past that never left
us Bessarabian Germans was addressed not only in Dr. Schneider’s
speech of the day. It was visible and evidenced in the rest of
the program at the Homeland meeting and brought awareness of how
much a part of our lives this binding tie has been.
During the moment of silence in memory of the dead in Beresina,
a band played which had been directed by a Beresiner for years.
One could feel that the representatives of the political community
could not really understand why a member of the Preparatory Board
that he knew as his neighbor for the past ten years should be
among these guests from Beresina and so obviously like himself.
We still count him as one of us in spite of all. Together the
guests then waited anxiously for pictures of scenes in Bessarabia
that Helmut Schneider had selected among old inventories and Alwin
Kalish, fresh out of Beresina had brought with him. There were
visitors who were ceremoniously entertained in their old villages
in Bessarabia. In Beresina the former inhabitants were not received
in such a kindly manner. It seems there were secrets in Beresina
and the authorities reacted to the visitors with arrests and identification.
We were not wanted there. Superfluous would be the question: Who,
after 50 years would finally go there again? As visitors, we would
have liked to at least be welcomed and tolerated by the authorities.
Whatever now develops in our village community, it is in any case,
time to heartily thank the host district for four successful and
much appreciated rallies in our community of Beresina. We respect
your decision not to plan any further rallies even if we regret
it and hardly want to believe that the time has come to say a
final “Ade, Beresina,” “Farewell, Beresina.”
Our appreciation is extended to Alma M. Herman for translation of this article.